Welcome to the Family

A few weeks ago, as a result of someone in my life being curious about Christianity, I reached out to others I knew for advice: I asked them what they thought the most important things to tell someone new to a relationship with Christ would be.

You know when you’re expecting something good but you get something more awesome than you could have anticipated? Yeah, me too.

All their thoughts were just too good not to share, so here they are!

Advice for New Christians (and reminders for ‘not-so-new’ believers too!):

“Above all, seek Truth. Once you find that, everything else falls away. And God’s word is ultimate truth, so trust in that and seek Him. All Jesus said we have to do is knock, and the door will be opened. So all you have to do is knock, and Jesus will come the rest of the way to pursue your heart.”

” 1. Being a young believer is the sweetest, yet sometimes the most difficult time in your walk, but every difficult time you encounter, The LORD brings you a step closer to Him and His plan for you! Never stop praying. Talk to God when you don’t understand something. Tell him about your heartache, your hopes, your frustrations…everything! He wants to hear from you. There’s absolutely NOTHING you can’t go to Him with. 2. You are going to fall short. We really all are, and we will until we take our last breath. But man, let me tell you, life with Jesus is a life I never thought I could have, until I did. Your eyes are opened to literally a new world filled with love from the LORD and the Holy Spirit. It’s not all easy and smooth, but when you hold tight to Jesus, everything you thought was impossible is super teeny tiny now. That’s God. He has power. 3. BE loved. Crack open a Bible, reflect on the love you are freely given. Ask God the big questions. You are never alone. Find community, and even though the world and it’s temptations feel bigger than this whole God thing, they are truly not. HOLD FAST, because you are never being let go of, unless you choose to let go.”

“Congratulations, you just made the best decision of your entire life. But it’s not a magic potion, life will still have its usual ups and downs. But this time, you have something worth fighting for. God will stand before you and behind you as you walk through each day. It will be hard at times, but cling to Jesus and the hope he has now given you. In the end, it will always be worth it. You are redeemed, you are a new creation, and you CAN do this. You are worthy. You are loved.”

“Becoming a Christian is one of the biggest decisions you can make. It’s laying down your will, accepting imperfection and loving without bounds. Confusion and questions will come, you’ll doubt, but rather than give up, search. Search scripture, many of the people of the Bible doubted too, and they leaned closer and asked God themselves. ‘I do believe, but help me with my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24)”

“Always try to surround yourself with fellow believers; people who will build you up, encourage you, keep you accountable and help you grow in your faith. Always try to read your Bible when you can. It is like “daily nutrition”, the more you ‘eat’, the quicker you’ll grow. Search for Him in all areas and aspects of your life, and ALWAYS give Him the glory! Learning to trust God is hard at first, but it makes your faith stronger. You have to have patience and faith in His plan for you. He will never let you down and we can always count on his promises. When you’re faced with a decision, God’s Word is the place to go! PRAYER, that’s a big one. God loves when we talk with Him. Always put Him first in everything you do and decision you make.”

I hope that whatever walk of faith you are at right now, whether long time believer or never even considered Christianity, that this advice will inspire you in some way. Blessings!

Dear Younger Me

Dear Younger Me,

Where do I begin?

If I could go back and fix some things, let me tell you, I would.

But first I need to tell you, it gets better.

You won’t always be stuck in this place of not knowing who you are or what to pursue. I’m not saying that I know what I’m doing (trust me, I don’t) but I am closer.

You will survive middle school. It may seem like hell now, but it’s nothing you can’t handle.

But I am going to warn you, people you thought were friends won’t be. As much as you try to be popular, you will get shoved out of your “friend group” not once, not twice but three times in the course of middle school. Part will be your fault, but you can embrace your mistakes and learn from them, which is what you do.

For awhile you’ll pray every night to a God you aren’t sure is even there that he will send you a best friend who you can do everything with, someday you will find your place and friends who are real.

It will take a long time, but that little acne-ridden girl who didn’t know who she was meant to be will grow up in time, and she will turn into a strong woman who knows her place and only that it is found through Christ.

High school will be better than middle school.

You will find two people you think are your best friends.

You will have boyfriends together and go to the mall to hang out. It will be fun, you will wonder why you hadn’t experienced this before. You’ll have lame little parties and drink soda and watch horror movies and feel like you belong. Even here is not your place.

People change, and when you give your life to Christ after sophomore year, these friends will continue to pull you away and eventually you are going to have to let go of them. They will worship other idols: drugs, their boyfriends, their bodies.

Speaking of that, you will give something away to a boy sophomore year. It will hurt alot and you won’t think you will ever be okay again. It will, I can promise you. It may be hard to trust men for awhile, I’m still struggling with this, but know that you can hold out for a man on fire for Christ – you are worth that.

It will be okay.

There will be some really good parts of high school, too.

You will make friends, some that may even last forever. You may not always get along, but that best friend you prayed and prayed for comes in the form of three amazing women you will grow close to your junior year and they will stay by your side throughout the rest of high school. Hold on to them.

Musical will be one of those good parts, too. You will learn to be more confident in yourself, something you are probably lacking in. Come age 18 when you no longer have that, you will miss those days of caked on makeup and showers at 1 am to attempt to get the hairspray out of your hair. It will be so worth it. And the summer after high school you will find yourself home alone watching the Sound of Music and crying on the couch because you miss it that much. Cherish those memories.

Band will be even better. It is one of those things that will annoy you sometimes, but you will miss like a piece of you is gone when it is over. When you think about it hard enough, your heart will start to ache and you’ll have to look at old photos to remember every moment. You’ll try out for colorguard your junior year and senior year will be dedicated to it. You will do as much as you can for your director because you wish with all your heart that even though she hides it, she wasn’t so stressed out. At your final band concert, she will even present you with her director’s award and when you get home that night you will cry happy tears because you didn’t even realize that your bossiness and organization was actually helping others. You will meet people, grow close to your directors and have lifelong memories from the mere four years you had in the group.

You will decide to go to college, and your senior year you will tour a few places. One you will love, one you will hate and one you will end up at. You are in the right place, so don’t worry. You won’t know what you want to “be when you grow up”, and it will stress you out a lot.

All the people in your life will be encouraging and you will find your path (hopefully, I am still stuck at this point). You will want college to be a time of learning about yourself and if you persevere, it will be.

Fast forward to today. You will be sitting near the cafeteria at your college, drinking a chai tea latte that you bought at Starbucks this morning and glancing up every once in awhile to see a wall filled with old photographs of former professors. A vending machine will be humming beside you and the sound of students playing ping pong echoes from a room near you. At this moment, right now, you are truly content.

You don’t have it figured out. Not even a little bit. Tomorrow you may not be so happy, that’s how this works. But right now, right here, you know that despite all your mistakes, all your screw ups and your falls, God has got you. It took awhile for you to figure out, but somehow it was perfect timing. That God you prayed to in middle school is real and true and he is there. He loves you and he has brought you to this point.

Trust Him with everything you have. When you are feeling lonely a week in to college, it will be okay to pour your heart out to the only one who can heal it, He will carry you through everything.

Every moment up to this point, every temptation and every tear, every moment you weren’t sure you wanted this life any more, every time you couldn’t contain your excitement and every smile – they were all worth it.

Continue to embrace a relationship with God, continue to be kind to people even when you don’t want to. It will be okay and you will be better for it.

Don’t settle for less or sell yourself short in any way. You are worthy of happiness, whether that means waiting or taking chances.

Dear younger me, it gets better. Don’t give up on God, or on yourself.

You’ve got this.

 

Adulting?

Guess what!

I am officially a college student of three days!

After being in the same school district for 13 years and seeing mostly the same people every single day for just as long, it is mind-blowing to be in a place where I am surrounded by different people and generally don’t know anyone in any of my classes.. The first few days of class, no one talked to each other and I was starting to feel uncomfortable and regret my college choice.

There are 26 University of Wisconsin colleges, half two year commuter colleges that transfer automatically to the larger 4 year colleges (ie. UW-Madison). I attend one of those two-year colleges. This means that I live at home and drive to school each day, rather than the traditional college experience involving dorms and food plans. When everyone in my graduating class was applying for school and planning where they wanted to go, and I decided to apply at Fox, most of the students I encountered acted like it was beneath them to attend there and live at home. When people would ask me where I was going, I began to tell them “just UW Fox .” JUST, because at that point I believed it wasn’t quite as good as one of the four year schools too, and it certainly wasn’t as impressive as heading off to some obscure private school out of state that, let’s be real, no one can afford anyway.

But I am learning day by day that UW Fox is EXACTLY where I am meant to be.

I can pay for my first two years easily without loans and only one scholarship, so joke’s on everyone else! But anyway, the point of this post isn’t to dis other schools or brag about my somewhat savvy financial planning. It’s to talk about how I believe I made the right choice and followed the Lord’s plan.

Like I said, after my final class on Wednesday still no one was really talking to one another. I get it, it is a new experience and everyone was uncomfortable, but I was feeling lonely and doubting if I would make any friends. I am a drama queen, so I kept telling myself I should have just gone to Green Bay (the school I am planning to transfer to) right away. But, I was holding on, because Wednesday after class, I had my first Cru Live. Cru is a Christian organization that exists on a lot of different campuses, and I was holding onto the fact that this would make me feel like I could make friends with other people.

There was pizza (selling point right there!) and some announcements, and then we split up into groups to share about ourselves and play ‘two Truths and a Lie’. Before we even began, the leader of our small group turned to me and asked, “Are you Mariah?”

This is a big deal for me!

I am not an outgoing person, people do not just know who I am. By confirming my identity, she made me feel so important and so comfortable. In high school I was always, someone’s friend, Chris’ sister – never just me.

I know it isn’t a big deal to most people, I get that. But I truly believe that God used her to bring me confidence in joining the group and about the school in general.

This is a new place for me. I know there will be some challenges, I know there will be some situations that are’t fun – even some that I will really hate. But I also know that through the people I will meet and through Cru, I will grow in my faith and this college experience will be about finding myself and who I am in God.